Alchemilla Love

When I was employed at Rolling Green Nursery, this plant was often requested by shoppers. From one week to the next, when I reported for work, I noticed the plant was practically sold out in my absence. That much requested perennial is Alchemilla… lady’s mantle. I wasn’t too familiar with it as I didn’t grow it in my zone 8 Virginia garden but, now I have fallen under its spell in my seacoast New Hampshire garden. I started with two plants as accents in a border and they quickly charmed me so much that I now use them as a groundcover in another border. Lots of lady’s mantle there and I am rewarded with plant pizzazz!

The blooms of the lady’s mantle are frothy clusters of yellow/chartreuse that cover the plants this time of year. Each individual bloom is about 1/8-inch wide and shaped like a little star. The clouds of blossoms stand erect above the mound of attractive leaves. However, as the blooms become heavy, they can become a bit floppy. That’s when I cut those heavier stems for flower arrangements. They look fabulous alone in a container or stunning as a filler in mixed arrangements. And… a bonus… they seem to hold color for me when they are air-dried.

Alchemilla 'Lady's Mantle'

Lady’s mantle does self-seed and some folks will deadhead all the flowers before the seeds ripen. The tiny seeds, one per flower, ripen when the blooms become dry and brown later in the summer. I do allow some self-seeding but cut most blooms. During the heat of the summer, I keep the plants well-watered and after deadheading I am rewarded with a flush of fresh growth in the fall.

lady's mantle 2018

The leaves of lady’s mantle are like shallow rippled cups and have tiny soft hairs that cause water droplets that form either from rain, fog, or evaporation to roll around on the surface and hang on along the edge of the leaf.

My variety: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ‘thriller’ – zones 3-8

Hiking through the Winter Woods

After wet, heavy snowfalls this fall, I thought for sure we were on our way to more polar vortices and deep snowfalls like last winter. Click to enlarge all photos.

There’s never 100% certainty, but because a strong El Nino did not materialized, the Climate Prediction Center of the NOAA now predicts a 40% chance the Northeast will have above average winter temperatures. We still may have our share of memorable snowstorms because those can only be predicted one or two weeks before. Fingers crossed…

This weekend the temperatures in Exeter hovered in the 40’s….great Virginia-like weather for a holiday hike with family. Blue skies. Abundant sun. Mild temps. Light breeze.

farmWe hiked over private land to the Phillips Exeter Academy woods and numerous trails that run along the Exeter River and beyond. With hardly a ripple in the water, we were treated to some spectacular reflections of the sky and trees…. only broken up by the activity of 20 or more mallards happily enjoying the mild weather.

Winter is the time to notice the bark on trees and we stopped several times to witness activity and interests along the trails. Click to enlarge.

Finally, with abundance of wet weather, the tiny natives along the trail were gloriously happy and green on the woodland floor when little else was green except tall evergreen trees.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) with its bright red berries grows slowly and will form a thick mat when conditions are right. I am careful not to disturb it.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum) is a club moss that looks much like a tiny pine… whose 100′ tall ancestors existed almost 400 million years ago before flowering plants populated the earth.  They reproduce by rhizomes and spores. Often used for Christmas decorations, many states now protect this delicate native plant.

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

Container Plants in Zone 5

In Virginia’s zone 7b, I could leave most of my container plants outside all winter. Rake some leaves over pots in a sheltered corner and they’re good till spring. It’s definitely NOT what you want to do where I live in New Hampshire…. zone 5b. I tried my southern method last winter and lost all plants and the pots. I don’t have too many container plants yet as I’m still designing my small landscape… one that involves the removal of trees, a decision made by the residents in our association. Next year I may have an all sun garden and my landscape plan will change accordingly.

My favorite container I designed this summer is a variety of sedum… some bought, some bits being swept up and discarded after cleaning up around plants at work. They’re the easiest plants to root so I threw tiny leaves into the pot when I arrived home from the garden center. Most flourished. Some grew too much and had to be transplanted to the ground.

They eventually merged into one another, blending yellows, greens, reds, and blues. They grew tall. They cascaded over the pot. It was a showstopper and I want to save it. So, today, into the unheated garage the pot has gone. Sitting in the light of a window, I’ll hope for the best for this blend of magic so it can again shine for me next summer.

Click to enlarge photos.

Staying Cool…

On hot, dry days at Rolling Green Nursery, overhead sprinklers can buy us a little time in the morning until we can get the hose on plants that flag first in the July heat.

Rolling Green SprinklersThat means a lot of time on sultry days is spent deep watering.  We move slowly through the rudbeckia….

Rudbeckiathe liatris….

Liatristhe sage….

sageIt’s a bit of a relief to slip beneath the covered area to water the shade plants,

Fernsand then it’s back out in the hot sun for a second watering of the Leucanthemum…..

Shastas….until the end of the day when we sometimes need a cool shower ourselves before calling it a day. We love our work!

Heidi

Heidi cools down before heading home for the day

Summertime Blues

Someone told me today that we have about 6 more weeks of summer weather in New Hampshire. Bummer!  By mid-October temperatures drop, days are shorter and the leaf peepers will begin to stream into the state.

I will miss the warmth of summer. The August calendar filled quickly.  We have traveled. We have entertained house guests. I’ve made pickles from garden fresh cucumbers. We’ve frequented farmers’ markets, celebrated the youngest grandson’s first birthday and the oldest grandson’s 18th birthday, enjoyed a big family gathering, and continued our walks.

I visited public gardens, wandered through garden nurseries, met with a landscape architect, planted a few shrubs and pulled a few weeds and crabgrass, but no real gardens on this property yet…. except for my newest garden endeavor…. container gardening!

I loved making my own, pictured somewhere below but I’ll never tell. It was also fun to photograph different planters throughout the summer travels as I passed by with my handy iPhone. It seems as though the healthiest container plants were often the tried and true hot petunias, chartreuse or purple sweet potato vine and coleus in variety of shades and variegation. I was also surprised to see pots of healthy impatiens as most good nurseries did not sell them around here because of a mildew problem.

Any favorite color combinations for you?

Some were interesting but could use a little help…

And others had gone to plant heaven.

There’s a new seedling in the garden!

A week ago,we were blessed with a new seedling in the family garden… a healthy new grandson. This tiny little sprout has drawn me away from my regular duties of gardening, blogging, etc. to spreading a bit of assistance wherever it’s needed for my daughter and her now family of three.

Before we know it, he’ll be stomping through mud puddles and trying to pull the dog’s tail, however, I’m truly looking forward to teaching another little one the joys and benefits of gardening and doing one’s duty in caring for this earth. I hope we can plant a ‘baby tree’ soon to grow with this little one the way my parents did for us. My siblings and I recently visited the Warwick (now Newport News) VA home where we were raised and the fully grown trees were a testament to our ages!

“A garden of love grows in a grandmother’s heart.”  Author Unknown

Cherry Blossom Time!

The yellows are slowly fading in this early spring landscape and the pinks are beginning to appear. A specimen tree in the middle of this lawn revealed its identity when its showy pink blossoms emerged last week. Blooming alongside its handsome copper colored leaves, the Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus ‘Kwanzan’) is considered by many the most beautiful flowering cherry. Up close, the double-pink blossoms are delicate and dainty, like the subjects of a fine watercolor painting. From a distance, the 20′ tree, boughs exploding with pink blooms, dances and bends in our powerful New England spring winds. But this Kwanzan Cherry has not surrendered for 20+ years which tells me that this is a tough zone 5 specimen that will continue to add punch to this landscape.

A Touch of Eden

Just about a mile from where we live, there are several large greenhouses on the UNH campus that are used in the agriculture, horticulture, and science departments for classrooms, research projects, breeding, Integrated Pest Management, organic gardening, sustainability studies and more. When I read they were opening the greenhouses to the community last week, we jumped at the opportunity to tour them, learn from professors and master gardeners, plus get a little break from the late winter bleakness.

Yes, there were crowds. We wandered and squeezed around people through the several greenhouses that were all connected to one building where educators, students, master gardeners were set up to answer questions or tell a little about the plants, the greenhouses and how they were managed. There were greenhouses devoted to annuals, some perennials, to crops, to herbs, to exotics and some where only students and staff were allowed entrance.

Hallways were arranged with attractive display gardens… pots, wall hangings, vertical gardens, tulip landscapes and horticulture students like Zack (below), tired from a late night getting ready for the open house, but ready to answer questions.

Zach yawned a bit but he was ready to chat...

We realized that some greenhouse had lots of healthy tomato plants and herbs for sale… CHEAP… and folks were buying and buying.

Other greenhouses held succulents, gorgeous exotics, and all those carnivorous pitcher plants, and orchids, some labeled, others not. There were ferns, a small pond, bananas, oranges… Pinch myself.  Is this Eden?

Flamboyant pitcher traps (Sarracenia levocphylla)

Another pitcher plant (Nepenthes x ventrata) from the Philippines

Orchids galore! (Paphiopedilum insigne)

Pitcher Plant with little bugs inside

Flamingo Flower or Boy Flower (Anthurium scherzerian)

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)

The melon greenhouse was filled with a variety of plants, all grown vertically. Fruits were supported in little hammocks. What a great idea!

And yes, like many others, we did succumb to the lure of healthy, large herb plants.  So we left after an hour and a half with a Tiny Tim tomato plant and some dill…. all for a good cause to raise funds for a trip for the students, we were told.

Now to keep them healthy until May 20 when the last frost is over in these parts…..